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House will try again to get farm bill passed

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 7:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The House plans to take up another farm bill this month, but Republican leaders are reviewing what the legislation should include to ensure they have enough votes to pass it, Rep. Steve King said on Monday.

The Iowa Republican said GOP leadership is assessing the best way to collect the 218 votes needed to approve a five-year, $500 billion farm bill. The votes could come from either side of the isle, including attracting some of the 62 Republicans or 172 Democrats who voted against the bill on June 20.

“We're going to take a bill up in July,” King said. “We don't know what it's going to be yet, but we're going to take another stab at it.”

In a surprise move, the House farm bill was defeated, 195-234, largely because of proposed changes to the country's food stamp program used by 48 million Americans. Some Republicans said the estimated $2 billion in annual cuts to the program in the House version of the bill were not enough, while Democrats said they were too steep. The full Senate, which passed its bill earlier in June, reduced the program by $400 million each year.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters last week that discussions were under way about the best way forward. Boehner and other GOP leaders are gauging support in the House for splitting the farm bill in two — the agriculture components and the nutrition section, which includes the popular food stamp program.

King said, “I don't think there is support for splitting it,” nor does he favor that approach. “I think leadership needs to go through that deliberation process, and if they do that, they're likely to come to a similar conclusion that I have.”

If the House chooses not to split the bill, lawmakers could vote on the version passed by the House Agriculture Committee in May, make changes to the bill that failed or take up the Senate's measure. Analysts and lobbyists believe the most likely outcome, however, will be an extension of the current farm law, despite steadfast opposition from top leaders in the Senate.

The farm bill extension expires Sept. 30.

King blasted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for criticizing the House for not passing a farm bill — a measure Vilsack opposed because of the cuts to the food stamp program. King said Vilsack's comments have “made it harder” to pass a farm bill.

The farm bill covers everything from crop subsidies and food aid to trade and conservation, but the biggest component is food stamps, which make up about 80 percent of spending in the law.

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